Is there a story in you? Here are some ways to get it out.

The sky is streaked with lightning. Rain is falling. Snoopy sits on his doghouse, punching out the story on his typewriter.

“It was a dark and stormy night ...”

Ah, the romantic image of the author at work. Does it appeal to you?

The single biggest career move I made was becoming a Plumbing & Mechanical columnist. (Thanks to Dan H. for the push, and for Jim O., Steve S., Katie R. and Kelly F. for making me look good since 1995.) The column has lead to everything else - speaking, consulting, business opportunities and the launch of a wildly successful franchise. Folks assume you know something when you are a published author. Write a book and expect a better table at the restaurant.

How about you? Is there a book inside you?

I participated in a seminar by “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Mark Victor Hansen called “How to Build Your Speaking and Writing Empire.” This fellow has it going on! He and his partner Jack Canfield have sold more than 60 million books and have leveraged their books into a plethora of supporting products and services - from seminars to greeting cards to calendars. (Learn the book business from Mark and his associates at www.markvictorhansen.com and check out his “Mega Book Marketing University.”)

Mark encouraged me to get it done and get it printed. You may fuss over your book because it isn't perfect. You can always update it when you reprint it. You can write the sequel. Your magnum opus may be yet another book.

How To Write A Book

Dan Holohan learned a terrific technique for triggering the creative writing process. It's called “Clustering” and he explains it beautifully on page 145 of his book “How to Teach Technicians without Putting Them to Sleep.” Try it.

I'd like to introduce you to another helpful Dan. Dan Poynter started jumping out of airplanes in 1962. Since then, he has jumped - and successfully landed - more than 1,200 times. He is an expert on skydiving. People wanted to know what he knows, so he began writing about it. As a result, he became an expert on writing and publishing books.

How nice of him to write books about how to do that, too. He makes it so much easier for you. I have a completely dog-eared copy of “The Self Publishers Manual - How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book.” Here are some of his simple ideas:

  • Get a three-ring binder. This is your book.
  • Pick a topic you love. The journey is too long to write about something you think you should write about. Passion is an essential ingredient.
  • Research your topic. Three-hole punch any Internet pages, newspaper or magazine articles that you may use as resources for the book. Put them in the binder.
  • Write the back cover copy first. This will help you begin with the end in mind.
  • Get writing. Don't start by organizing. Start creating. Three-hole punch and store all your pages in the binder.
  • Once you have some content, take it out of the binder and spread it out on the floor.
  • Arrange it, like a quilt, into sections that make sense.
  • Put it back in the binder - and keep after it until it is finished.
  • Then, publish it.


How To Publish A Book

The publisher is the one who puts up the money to print the book. If you pay to have the books printed, then you are a self-published author. It's easy to do.

There are folks who specialize in helping authors self-publish. Check out www.greenleafbookgroup.com. They can help you through the whole publishing process. They do the production, you write the check. Clint Greenleaf and his associate, Meg LaBorde, are delightful to work with, and have made my self-publishing dream a reality.

You don't need to print millions of books, or even thousands. You can publish books one at a time, if you like. Check out www.cafepress.com. The price per book is higher than printing in quantity, and you may sacrifice production quality, but, hey, it's an option.

Who Will Read It?

Is it a technical book? Is the information of service to the contracting world? Send a copy to Dan Holohan. He will put it on his site www.heatinghelp.com. He has sold tens of thousands of other people's books on his site.

Dan knows that you will be a Dead Man someday. He knows a lot about Dead Men because he talks to them and tells their stories. That's fortunate, because they have left behind miles and miles of beautiful plumbing and steam work. Without the Dead Men stories, you wouldn't know how to support those mechanical systems. You may want to write your stories so that when you are dead, others will know why you put the pumps and pipe where you did.

Does your book have a wider audience? Is there a bestseller inside you? Do you aim to see your book on the New York Times Bestsellers List? If so, YOU will be the one to get it there. A rule of bestselling books: The author promotes the book. From conception to publication to the hands of the reader, you are well-served to be involved in every step of the process.

Here are a few resources for big-ambition authors:

Meet Jillian Manus at www.manuslit.com. Ms. Manus is a literary agent and is generous with her sound advice for getting noticed and published by a book publishing company, like Random House. The “brass ring” in the book business is the big-dollar advance for your written - or yet-to-be-written - book. A good literary agent can help you do that.

Publicist Rick Frishman is the author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Writers.” He has worked with scores of bestselling authors, including Henry Kissinger, Stephen King and Caroline Kennedy. He will help you craft a 30-second “elevator speech” for your book that will get it noticed and get it sold. If it takes longer than 30 seconds to pitch your book, you won't sell many. Rick is a sweetheart of a guy! Meet him at www.rickfrishman.com.

Just For You

Your book can be just for you. Your life is already full of adventures, heartbreaks and wonderful wins. Keep a journal. Record the story of your life as it develops. Otherwise, you will forget and your story will disappear.

Write it down. Every now and then, read it. Remind yourself of where you have been and what you have accomplished.

Someday, your kids may want to read it. What an amazing gift to share. What you did right. What you did wrong. What made you laugh. How you felt when your kids were born, got hurt, got married, had kids.

How to fix a boiler in a nor'easter with 60-mile-per-hour winds and minus 10 degrees on the thermometer.

“It was a dark and stormy night ...”